First Pitch: Why the Pirates Shouldn’t (Have) Sign(ed) Russell Martin

Earlier today I wrote my “First Pitch” article, titled “Why the Pirates Shouldn’t Sign Russell Martin”. I spent some time taking a deep look at Martin, and looking at the Pirates’ situation. I had it all set up to post at midnight. Then the Pirates signed Martin to a two year, $17 M deal. Nothing really changed with my thoughts below, except for the fact that the move happened. So I’m just going to go with it. The following is why I feel the Pirates shouldn’t have signed Martin. I’ll have some post-move comments below. Keep in mind that the following was written earlier today, before Martin signed.

*****

It’s been almost a month since I did a “First Pitch” article. I’d say that’s entirely because I’ve been working on the 2013 Prospect Guide, but even if I wasn’t, there hasn’t been much to talk about. On a related note, I expect to finish writing the Prospect Guide this week, and it is on schedule for a mid-December release. You can pre-order your copy here.

Now that we actually have news to discuss, I wanted to go in to detail with my thoughts on Russell Martin. We’ve heard that the Pirates are offering three years and $22 M. Yesterday I said that I felt signing Martin would be a mistake. Some people in the comments disagreed, pointing out that $7-8 M a year for Martin would be worth it based on his WAR numbers, as well as his results in new studies like pitch framing. Let’s look at the facts on Martin, to determine how good of a catcher he is.

First of all, for those of you who were disappointed by the offense from Rod Barajas, it probably won’t get significantly better with Martin. He hit for a .211/.311/.403 line in 2012. That was slightly down from his .237/.324/.408 line in 2011. Both of those came in Yankee stadium, although he didn’t have any significant home/road splits that suggested his numbers would drop off moving out of New York.

If you look at the image below of Martin’s home run’s from last year (hit in Yankee Stadium, shown on the PNC Park map), he went opposite field a lot. Of his 13 homers at home, 10 went to right field. Yankee Stadium is very friendly in right field, but so is PNC. I’ll have more on that after the image.

Russell Martin’s 2012 home runs in Yankee Stadium, shown on PNC Park’s map, via Katron.org.

At first I thought that Martin’s power would translate well to PNC, much better than Rod Barajas. Prior to joining the Pirates, Barajas had a .230/.287/.430 line with the Dodgers. With the Pirates he had a .206/.283/.343 line. The on-base percentage was about the same, although he saw a big reduction in power. You could argue that this was because he was a right-handed pull hitter in PNC Park. His slugging was a horrible .287 at home, and .403 on the road.

I checked Martin’s other home runs away from Yankee Stadium. All eight of them in 2012 were to left field. It was the same story in 2011. All ten of his road homers were pulled to left-field, and some of them would have been routine fly balls in PNC. In 2011 only two of his eight homers at Yankee Stadium were to right field. From 2008-2011 with the Dodgers, Martin only hit two homers to right or right-center.

I asked on Twitter what the reason could be for Martin’s power in New Yankee Stadium. Several people mentioned a jet stream out to right, although Joe Pawlikowski and Mike Axisa of RiverAveBlues.com both disagreed with that, saying the stadium is home run friendly in right field because of a short right field and a low wall. PNC has the short right field, but not the low wall, which means some of those homers above could turn to doubles. Either way, 2012 looks like a fluke when you look at the rest of Martin’s career and his road games and see that he’s been more of a pull hitter with home runs. That could lead to a decline in power numbers, similar to what we saw from Barajas.

There’s still no universal way to judge catching defense. A lot of it is stuff you can’t quantify, like how a catcher handles a pitching staff, or how a catcher calls a game. The things you can quantify come with disclaimers. The big thing to point to is the caught stealing percentage. Martin has seen a decline the last few years, going from 39% to 30% to 24% in 2012. His career average is 30%. The Pirates really struggled in this department last year, so you’d think adding Martin would help. The problem is that the struggles had very little to do with the catcher. Rod Barajas had a 25% caught stealing percentage in 2011 with the Dodgers, and was close to 30% for his career. Then he had a 6% rate with the Pirates. The reason for that wasn’t that Barajas suddenly couldn’t throw anyone out. It was because the Pirates didn’t emphasize holding the runner on. They were willing to give up free bases, which means the catcher behind the plate will struggle, no matter how good he is.

Martin might have a career 30% caught stealing rate, but if the Pirates maintain the same philosophy — having the pitchers focus entirely on the hitter, rather than splitting their attention and holding the runner on — Martin will struggle.

There are also recent studies on pitch framing, and catchers being able to get extra strikes due to their skills in this area. You can read one of those studies at Baseball Prospectus. This isn’t a widely accepted skill. I can’t say I fully believe in pitch framing. The best argument against it is that catchers on teams like the Yankees would get the benefit of the doubt, while catchers on teams like the Pirates wouldn’t see the same advantage. The counter to that is to point out that catchers from the same teams, even from the Yankees, can have totally different outcomes.

I’m on the fence about the value here, but if you’re a believer in the study, Martin looks stronger. In that BP link, Martin ranked second, and was an upgrade of 20 runs per 120 games over Rod Barajas. Barajas was an upgrade over Ryan Doumit (who was the worst in that study) but was rated in the middle of the pack.

I think I could agree that Martin would be worth a three-year, $22 M deal, although that’s speaking more to the weak catching market and how weak the position is across the league. He doesn’t hit for average or get on base, but is regarded as a strong defender, and the stats back that up. The Yankees also back that up, since the main reason they want him back is because of his defensive skills and work with the pitching staff. He does hit for power, although he should see a decline in PNC Park.

There are two issues here. The first issue is whether Martin is worth the money being reported. The second issue is whether it would make sense for the Pirates to give him that money. I thought Pat Lackey made some good points on this subject the other day.

Pirate fans like to joke (or to seriously complain) about the team not spending enough money, but the Pirates poured gasoline on and put a flint to $11 million last year in the form of the Clint Barmes contact, then took an extra $4 million and just ran it through the shredder in the form of the Barajas contract. If they sign Martin this winter, they’re going to waste $20 million over two years on three players that are barely better than replacement value and who offer no tangible upgrades over the much cheaper internal options the Pirates have.

The Pirates have money to spend. The Pirates do not have money to waste. If they sign Russell Martin, it’s a pretty good indication that they can’t tell the difference between the two. That’s a really, really bad thing.

The bold part is for emphasis on my next point. The discussion about Martin isn’t about whether he’s worth the money. It’s about whether the Pirates should pay that money. Would they be better off sticking with in-house options and spending that money elsewhere?

The Pirates currently have Michael McKenry, and he’d probably be the starter if Martin wasn’t signed. Last year McKenry hit for a .233/.320/.442 line in 240 at-bats. Those numbers are better than Martin’s 2012 numbers, although they’re hard to trust. Martin has a track record. McKenry has one season and 240 at-bats of good hitting for a catcher. He also started to fade down the stretch as his playing time increased. In the first half he had an .852 OPS. In the second half he had a .694 OPS, with a .687 in August and a .533 in September (the months he received the most playing time). The concern with McKenry is that his first half was a fluke, and he’ll end up closer to his 2011 numbers, which was a .598 OPS. Defensively he seems strong, although there are the caught stealing concerns (18% in 2012), which again are more on the pitchers.

Then there’s top catching prospect Tony Sanchez. Sanchez gets a lot of criticism for his poor hitting. This year in Triple-A he hit for a .233/.316/.408 line in 206 at-bats, seeing an increase in his power numbers in the process. Still, the overall numbers are poor. When you look at them compared to Martin, they look about the same. The problem is that Triple-A numbers don’t translate over to the majors. If Sanchez could put up that line over a full season in the majors, there would be no discussion here. He’d be Russell Martin, costing much less money. But that’s not how it works.

There have been questions about Sanchez’s defense in the past, although those questions are misguided. They first came around due to his poor caught stealing numbers, since those were the only stats people could see. That’s when Pirates fans didn’t know about the team’s philosophy to ignore the running game, which has been going on for longer in the minors. That approach makes more sense in the minors. You want pitching prospects focused on their pitches. You don’t care about wins and losses there, you care about development. In the majors it doesn’t make sense, since it literally gives away bases, runs, and wins.

The questions about his arm came in 2010, when he threw out 15% of runners, and in 2011, when he threw out 22% of runners. They also came from people who haven’t seen Sanchez, and haven’t seen his strong arm. The caught stealing numbers don’t reflect the skill. He improved to 29% in 2012, which is closer to his skill level.

The other issue with his defense comes with the “Gold Glove” effect. His offense has been so bad the last two years that it makes him a bad defender. That makes no sense at all, but that’s the way it goes. Most of the time offensive performance dictates how a player’s defense is perceived. It’s as if we can’t say “this guy is hitting horribly, but he does have good defense”. I received criticism after the 2011 season for pointing out that his defense had improved, even though the offense was horrible. Sanchez still has good defense. Again, people who have seen him can attest to this. The pitchers that throw to him swear by this, and not in the token “I have to credit him because he’s my teammate and catcher” way. I think his defense could be just as good as Martin’s defense.

The question with Martin isn’t whether he’s worth $7.5 M a year over three years. The question is whether the Pirates should spend that on Martin. I think that the defense from McKenry and Sanchez would match Martin’s defense. The big question is the offense. We don’t know what McKenry could do over a full season. Will he show the 2012 numbers? Will it be more like the second half of 2012? Will he revert to the 2011 numbers? Sanchez hasn’t been hitting well in Triple-A. There’s the possibility that he could have the exact same numbers in the majors, which wouldn’t be bad. That’s not usually how it works.

Russell Martin had 485 plate appearances last year, which coincidentally is the same amount of plate appearances McKenry had for his career. That allows for a convenient comparison. Let’s assume that a combo of Sanchez and McKenry could put up McKenry’s career numbers (.224/.298/.383 in 428 at-bats). I think that would be a reasonable assumption for Sanchez and McKenry, especially since McKenry was the one who produced the numbers we’re using. Here is how those numbers compare to Martin in 2012, looking at runs created.

Russell Martin 2012: 52.7

Michael McKenry Career: 51.4

There’s not much of a difference here. McKenry has a slight advantage, but it’s not even enough to show up on the won/loss column. But let’s go with a different approach for McKenry and Sanchez. Let’s assume they put up numbers similar to McKenry’s 2011 season (.222/.276/.322 in 180 at-bats). That would be a .598 OPS, with all of the numbers pro-rated to match the 485 plate appearances for Martin. Those results:

Russell Martin 2012: 52.7

Michael McKenry 2011: 42.4

Martin has a bigger advantage, and that advantage would probably amount to one extra win, using a ten runs per win scale.

The problem with this is that we don’t really know what a combination of McKenry and Sanchez would do. We can guess, based on the limited numbers McKenry has shown, but we don’t even know if McKenry will repeat those numbers. A McKenry/Sanchez platoon would rely on McKenry more in 2013, but would rely on Sanchez more in future years, since he has the better shot of improving his numbers. We also don’t know what Martin will do playing half his games in PNC Park. How much will his numbers decline? Are we talking Rod Barajas levels?

One issue with the deal is the time Martin would be under contract. You might make the argument that Martin is a better choice since there are fewer questions surrounding his game. That argument really only works in 2013. By 2014, Sanchez should be ready. You might be able to trade Martin, but that’s not really a guarantee, especially if his offensive numbers drop off and he becomes the next free agent to come to Pittsburgh and have a horrible season.

The other issue is that the Pirates have a limited budget. Even if they spent $70 M, they’d be spending a little over 10% of that on Martin. He’s not a good enough player and not a big enough upgrade to command 10% of the team payroll. I think you could look at the above numbers and argue that he’s not really a significant upgrade over what McKenry and Sanchez could produce, or at least not worth the difference in $7 M per year.

That’s the big issue for me, and it goes back to what Pat said. The Pirates can’t afford to be wasting money. They would be better off investing that $7.5 M per year on another position. Put that towards a pitcher. Right now the rotation has A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald, and potentially Jeff Karstens, Jeff Locke, Kyle McPherson, and others. There are some question marks with the latter, and even the first three have some question marks. Plus, all of those guys will eventually get time in the rotation, since most teams use eight or nine starters a year. If you add another pitcher, then Locke, McPherson and/or Karstens become depth guys, rather than using Vin Mazzaro as a depth guy.

It’s not like the Pirates can’t spend the money. They’re reportedly offering $22 M over three years to Martin. They’ve made offers of $10 M per year in each of the past two off-seasons to starting pitchers. Whether they can actually get a pitcher to sign with them this year is a totally different issue. That problem would also exist with Martin, so it’s a wash. They’re probably going to have to over-pay for whatever player they pursue, whether it’s in years or dollars. They might as well go for someone who would provide the biggest upgrade, and that’s not Russell Martin.

*****

So the three years and $22 M deal wasn’t correct. Instead they’ve got him for two years and $17 M, which is $1 M more per year. That’s still a waste of money, and a bit more than the previously reported offer. Having Martin for two years is slightly better, since Sanchez should be ready by 2014, if not sooner. The only way this move would make sense is if the Pirates saw a big increase to their payroll. Assuming Martin will make $8.5 M per year, that puts the projected salary around $69 M with no other moves. I could see Joel Hanrahan being dealt, which could bring the salary down. There’s also a chance that Jeff Karstens could be non-tendered. That would bring the salary back down around $60 M.

Unless they’re willing to make another big move and push that payroll up above $70 M, this looks like a bad decision. Their big move doesn’t provide a big upgrade to the team. The good news is that they’ve only got Martin for two years instead of three, but that’s only good news because he’s overpaid. Martin will most likely see his offense regress in PNC Park, similar to what Barajas saw. His caught stealing numbers will decline due to the philosophy of the Pirates. I don’t think his other defensive skills warrant paying $8.5 M per year, rather than having Michael McKenry split time with someone for much less. The Pirates had much bigger needs. $17 M over two years could have gone a long way to providing a bigger upgrade for the team than Martin will provide. This is a team that has a limited budget and has to spend their money wisely. This doesn’t look like a good way to spend the limited funds the Pirates have to work with.

Links and Notes

**Pre-order your copy of the 2013 Prospect Guide, which will be shipping in a few weeks.

**Pirates sign Russell Martin.

**Tomorrow is the deadline to tender players on the 40-man roster a major league contract for the 2013 season. Teams have until midnight Friday night to make an offer. Any players who are non-tendered become free agents. Here is my rundown of the arbitration eligible players, and the chances of each player being tendered.

**The early 2013 draft rankings are starting to come out, and Mark Appel is at the top of the list.

**Winter Leagues Recap: Marte Comes Up Big Again.

**The 2013 Payroll

**The Future Payroll Page

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    I didn’t want Martin, but the more I read, the more I wanted him.

    And, if the yankers wanted him back (along with Texas), that was good enough for me.

    As for the $$$$, I don’t care if it’s 20% of our payroll, we actually out bid someone for a FA that teams wanted!

    Foo

    .

    • http://www.facebook.com/fred.langford.9 Fred Langford

      I think a big factor is the average. We know the homers will go down. We know his defense is at least solid, and we know he takes a lot of walks and enough HBP to be an 80+ extra on base other than hits guys per 162 games. That is great for a catcher. So back to average…if he can hit .240-.250 that makes him somewhere around a .335-.350 obp guy…more than respectable…combine that with 12-14 HR a year (Hopefully) and i think you have a 2.5 WAR guy. I think that would make the contract worth it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/fred.langford.9 Fred Langford

      I think 20% of payroll would be catastrophic.

    • http://www.facebook.com/bryan.graham.773 Bryan Graham

      Poor Lee, actually believes we outbid the Yankees and Rangers for a player they wanted. C’mon Lee, I know you’re smarter than that, we all know that if those teams REALLY wanted him the Pirates would have no shot at him. The Pirates just put more value on weak hitting catchers than the other teams do.

      • http://www.facebook.com/vince.riedy Vince Riedy

        While I do not think this a an Earth shattering signing you should got to a Yankees or Rangers blog with your crap.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

        Bryan….You need new tin foil.

        .

  • elgaupo

    McKenry isn’t a full time starter. At best he’s a backup. He’s probably a AAAAer. Sanchez scuffled last year at AAA.

    Martin played with the big boys last year and did OK. I think he’ll be fine until we figure out what we have at catcher in Sanchez and Cabrera. Plus we don’t have to give up a pick.

    • Blue Bomber

      This argument works for me. We have no idea what we have right now at catcher. Martin is a solid player coming from a great organization and a tough division. He’s also not afraid to take a walk which the Pirates need. I think starting the year with unknown quantities at the most important position on the field is not a good idea, especially if the Pirates feel they can make another run at the playoffs.

  • leadoff

    I disagree with :
    “The problem is that the struggles had very little to do with the catcher.”

    It had a lot to do with the catcher, Barajas throws were so far off the mark he could not have thrown anyone out, his footwork was terrible, no matter how big or small the lead was or how good or bad the jump was. There is an easy way to make a judgement on who is at fault with a stolen base. If the throw is on the money and the guy steals the base, you can add that one to the pitcher, if the catcher is nowhere near the bag, give it to the catcher. Also the pitchers that were pitching for the Pirates were not brought up in the Pirate system, their staff knew how to hold runners.
    I can see the Pirates thinking, the catcher next to the pitcher is the most important player on the field, going with two very young catchers with a team that has a chance to contend would be the wrong way to go.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      In regards to the throwing accuracy, that’s because they have to rush the throw because the runners get a head start.

      Also, pitchers know how to hold runners. They just don’t focus on that. Their focus is on the batter, and they ignore the act of holding the runner on.

      • leadoff

        I am aware that he rushed his throws, the Pirates were aware also, they spent a lot of time with him to get him to quit rushing, when he rushed he tended to have bad footwork, for a veteran to rush as much as he did showed that he did not have confidence in his throwing. There may be some truth to the fact that the Pitchers did not concentrate because in the first part of the year the Pirates were giving them an out saying they wanted them to concentrate more on the hitter, but that changed about half way through the year when the Pirates realized that everyone was running anytime they wanted to and walks were suddenly doubles. I am not downplaying the fact that pitchers have much to do with stolen bases, but so do catchers.

      • http://www.facebook.com/vince.riedy Vince Riedy

        Did you watch him play?

        • leadoff

          Many times, live and on TV. Martin also.

    • http://www.facebook.com/fred.langford.9 Fred Langford

      I saw plenty of strikes down there too and the runnr was already popping up out of his slide. I think also when a catcher has no chance he tends to overthrow. It is safe to say Barajas was not throwing as well as the past, he had been in declin for years…but 6% is extreme and was no doubt at least 50% the pitching staff and coaching staff’s fault. Probably more than 50%.

  • https://profiles.google.com/106508220943703406151 Kevin Anstrom

    I like the signing a lot. The Pirates have depth at most spots except catcher. They have the third OLDEST pitching staff in baseball. Only the NYY and NYM are older. That is difficult to believe given the quality of the farm system. There is no good reason to spend big $ on a mid-tier veteran pitcher.

    Martin was my favorite FA candidate for the Pirates. Good offseason for the team so far.

    • http://www.facebook.com/bryan.graham.773 Bryan Graham

      You’re out of your freaking mind. Yippee, we have depth at catcher. It’s too bad it all sucks but at least we can say “we spent more on our starting catcher than you did”.

      • http://www.facebook.com/vince.riedy Vince Riedy

        Bryan Graham you added nothing substantial to the discussion.,

      • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

        Let’s see….spend money Bob Nutting. But when he does it gets criticized.

        Not sure that trading for Arencibia or Conger would’ve been the answer.

  • http://twitter.com/pskell02 pskell02

    I like the signing. All of the red flags that you mentioned in the article are very true. However, I think we may be missing something important in that he will be out of the AL East and coming into a much weaker division as far as pitching is concerned. I don’t expect to see Martin hitting .280, but a .20 or .30 point bump in his numbers from 2012 is not out of the question. Pair that with his strong defense and (oh God I pray) a more focused attempt at holding runners by the pitching staff and we should see increases in runs for the Bucs while lowering the number of runs allowed. In theory anyway.

    With the deal being for only 2 years and having Sanchez, hopefully, ready by mid/late season, I think this will work out very well. Plus Martin would be a pretty good mentor for Tony I believe.

    • http://daleberrasstash.blogspot.com/ Kevin Creagh

      I think it’s time to retire the whole “The AL East is the toughest division” idea. Look at the pitching staffs last year for the Orioles and the Blue Jays — not a single intimidating pitcher. The Red Sox were in complete shambles and Lester has been in decline. The Yankees (I know Martin can’t hit against them) had Sabathia and that’s it.

      Only the Rays with Price, Shields, Hellickson, and Moore had an intimidating staff. The Cards had a better staff in 2012 than any AL East team other than the Rays.

      • elgaupo

        The NL had 4 good teams in 2012 (SF, STL, CIN and WSH).

        The AL had 7 (TB, NYY, TEX, LAA, OAK, CHW, DET).

        The NL had the worst team in all baseball in Houston.

        The Cards rotation would have looked very average in the AL. They weren’t that good. They just didn’t have the competition nor had to face the DH.

      • leadoff

        Amen, tell that to the Pittsburgh media, they still don’t know the Pirates play the AL East all spring training, they know them very well.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      The fact that Martin’s BABIP was so low last year suggests he will hit for a higher avg than .221.

      Foo

      .

  • http://twitter.com/beatembuccos21 beatembuccos21

    As the club was falling out of contention in September, there had to be a pretty strong feeling in the front office that Barajas wasn’t going to be back. I mean, at least I hope that is what they were thinking. If they weren’t, then they aren’t paying enough attention. That being said, why was Barajas still playing? Why not give a handful of starts to Fryer and see what he has? Instead Barajas plays, Fryer is jettisoned and we have another stop gap who while steadily decling is:
    1. Making his highest salary ever

    and

    2. Making roughly what picking up Doumit’s extension would’ve cost

    I just don’t get it. People like to talk about Huntington’s process and being patient. I see this as another case of Huntington’s process not being worthy of trust or patience. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t see this signing as a postive thing.

    • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

      Fryer, as we all knew, isnt much of a catcher. and for that matter, neither is Doumit.

      i hate saying this, but Martin is the best backstop we’ve had since Kendall.

      • http://twitter.com/beatembuccos21 beatembuccos21

        I’m not arguing Fryer is/was a solution. I’m arguing he should’ve gotten a longer look. Huntington’s process is my point – I don’t think it is very good at all.

        Given that the Pirates had career best seasons in OPS+ from five players who got 200 PAs in 2012 yet were still worse than league average in runs scored, I would’ve gladly accepted Doumit’s defensive shortcomings to have his bat. 80 games of Fort. 60 games of Doumit and 20 games of random AAAA catcher would be fine with me.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

        White Angus….I agree with the Kendall comment.

        Sure would’ve been nice if Tony had been a Kendall clone.

        Oh well…

  • leadoff

    What is not being printed or mentioned by the Pirates is whether or not they have been trying to trade for a catcher, if they have and could not get one, then this is probably the best move they could have made, they simply can’t go with two inexperienced catchers with a team that they think can contend.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      The rumored tradeable catchers, JP and Conger, weren’t too high on my list.

      Toronto bloggers weren’t too happy with JPK (as in strikeout) last year.

      .

  • http://www.facebook.com/fred.langford.9 Fred Langford

    Say what you will about the Bucs signing Russell. At least we didn’t pay what the Braves did for Upton.

    • http://daleberrasstash.blogspot.com/ Kevin Creagh

      BJ Upton will be 28 for the 2013 season and making $15M thru his age-32 season.

      By comparison, McCutchen will be 28 in the 28 for the 2015 season and making $10M in what would have been his final pre-FA season. For his first two FA years, he is making $13M and $14M with an option for a third at $14.5M.

      Add in the fact that he is a far superior player to Upton and you see how great of a contract this is for the Pirates and how FA really inflates player’s worth unnecessarily.

  • tsnod91

    Good job on the article, Tim! I like reading about the new players that Pittsburgh signs. Even when the article is pretty negative towards the new acquisition. You make some very good points on why this Russell Martin signing may have not been the best move for Pittsburgh, but I actually like the signing. Although, Russell Martin has had some low batting averages the last couple years, he used to be a solid average hitter with the Dodgers back in his LA days. Sure, his hitting hasn’t been too solid the last few years, and many Bucco fans don’t view Martin as a 2 yrs/$17M kind of guy, but the Bucs aren’t paying him for what he’s done, they’re paying him for what he’s going to do. That’s the way I look at it. Optimism. Haha. (Nervous Laughter)

  • http://daleberrasstash.blogspot.com/ Kevin Creagh

    I wouldn’t be surprised if when terms are announced, Martin’s contract is something like $7M in 2013 and $10M in 2014. The slight backload will be buoyed by the added TV revenue in 2014.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      either way, doesn’t matter. We have an actual major league caliber starting catcher who other teams wanted, warts and all.

      Framing Foo

      .

  • wkkortas

    I have to agree with the premise of this article. The point isn’t that Martin is bad–he’s a average to somewhat-above starter. It’s that this is a huge chunk of payroll to spend on a guy who isn’t necessarily an upgrade on what is in house when the Pirates have other spots on the roster where the need is greater.

    • leadoff

      You can’t win without a mid to top tier catcher, every team in the playoffs had a mid to upper tier catcher, the Pirates can’t get there without one and they don’t have one in house this year and there was no better option available or I am sure the Pirates would have taken it.
      The Yankees spent 10mil on a 43 year old closer that has not pitched in a year, sometimes you have to role the dice.

      • wkkortas

        You mean like Jesus Flores? Ryan Hanigan? Kurt Suzuki? There is zero correlation between quality catching and post-season play. As far as the Yankees spending $10 million on Rivera…well, the Yankees have that kind of money underneath the cushions on the couch. The Yankees can afford to mis-allocate resources, because they make money hand over fist. The Pirates’ finances are somewhat different.

        • http://twitter.com/beatembuccos21 beatembuccos21

          wkkortas is correct. Stating that every team in the playoffs had a mid to upper tier catcher is a gross exaggeration. In addition to the players named by wkkortas, the 2012 and 2011 playoffs also featured Derek Norris, Yorvit Torrealba and Kelly Shoppach.

  • elgaupo

    Tim, this article has more holes in it than any article you’ve written in a while.

    1) McKenry’s platoon Abats over two seasons are the same as getting run out there every day for a whole season in a hard division?

    2) Sanchez “should be ready by 2014″?. I can probably find Tim Williams quotes that say:

    “Sanchez could be ready by 2011….and should be ready by 2012…. and should be ready by 2013″ Now 2014? Come on. The guy could truly bust and you need to plan for it.

  • Y2JGQ2

    So here it is. I love your well thought out opinions and I have to completely disagree with you on this signing. I don’t think you can gauge this against mcKenry and Sanchez because I don’t think we ever had any intention of doing that. I think there was a strong possibility they might have brought back Barajas to back up McKenry which….i’m sorry, is worst case scenario. I think of this as an upgrade over Barajas worth 4 million more a year. If you think about it that way, this is a good signing. Comparing McKenry with Martin’s last year numbers also isn’t fair since he’s had a very erratic offensive career. Some years posting steals, high average and no homers, others posting more homers, awful batting average and no steals. At 29, he isn’t losing his skills- it’s more an issue of properly harvesting them. He’s a smart enough hitter to use the field correctly, he hit the homers opposite field because he knew that’s where he could hit them, it will be the same at PNC. His career average and the bigger park to play in, could end up with a higher average here as well and more doubles. He always hit for a higher batting average with LA and the switch to the american league and pitcher familiarity could definitely have played a part in the lower batting average.

  • leadoff

    Isn’t it ironic that a few years ago many were concerned that the Pirates were nothing but the Yankee farm system, now it turns out that the Yankees can’t outbid the Pirates for one of their own players, much less taking Pirate players away from the Pirates.

  • Y2JGQ2

    here’s the numbers to back it up: Since he’s 29 there is no reason for us to think he can’t put these numbers up, and with a solid defense, there is a HUGE upside to this signing, especially in the belief that last year minus the home runs, was his worst offensive year and still a big upgrade over barajas

    Russell Martin Career Averages:

    .260 batting average (big win over most catchers) Strikeout rate around 17% (big win again since pitchers could strike out barajas pretty much anytime they wanted to late in games) 12 steals (barajas was slow as dirt and that hurt us) .352 OPS (huge) .400 slugging 12 homers 58 RBI.

  • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

    Have to agree to disagree here Tim. This is a very big upgrade from a -0.2 WAR catcher to a 2.2 WAR guy for a price tag well below market value for 2.5 wins. Before you go on about Yankee stadium keep in mind that WAR is context, league, and park neutral. For another fair review of the signing check out –

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/russell-martin-bringing-new-element-to-pirates-baseball/

  • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

    One other thing, the money issue, with the new Root deal and improved attendance the Bucs can afford $70 million right now, with next year’s big TV money, we can spend 90 million. I don’t think this move precludes adding a Edwin Jackson or Brandon McCarthy. on a 3/$36 type deal. I have been beating the SP drum all offseason, it is still the #1 need. NH just filled the #2 need with an affordable upgrade.

    • http://twitter.com/WNCRoadBowling WNCRoadBowling

      Take into account the fact that the Pirates aren’t paying all of Burnett and Rodriguez’s salaries and even if they tender everyone the Pirates still won’t be paying much more the $60M.

      • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

        They will be over $70 if the tender everyone, check Tim’s numbers on the payroll/roster link. At any rate it will be the highest payroll in team history.

    • Y2JGQ2

      jackson sucks…..why would we want him? We can’t have a control challenged pitcher on this team with the way we handle the running game. disasterous

  • TonyPenaforHOF
  • Y2JGQ2

    Jalcorn- I completely disagree in getting a starting pitcher. I think it’s superfluous and by all accounts, blocks what is our talent pool (minor league sp) from reaching their potential. Every year of wear and tear on the arm gives one less year of time in the big leagues, when pitchers are ready, blocking them with established small upside starters for 12X more per year, just makes no sense at all. The best bet is to keep Karstens because if he gets hurt it’s not a big deal, we will have kids ready, and karstens can handle the demotion and perform well out of the pen. McDonald Rodriguez Burnett, Karstens and (locke, mcpherson, wilson, cole) for the 5th spot is fine in fact i think it’s a perfect mix of youth and veteran presence. Cole will likely be ready by mid to late season, and it seems silly to put someone in his way who probably won’t be nearly as good as him down the line. Morton may even be brought back at a lower cost as well for the stretch run next year, so why the need for an sp?

    • https://profiles.google.com/116255365477483987850 jalcorn

      Karstens is gone. JMac is a huge ?. You have two rookies (Locke, McPherson) a reliever (Wilson) and a guy who will be good but not any sooner than June (Cole). That leaves two known quantities at SP. They desperately need SP.

      BTW, EJax certainly does not suck. He is a 3 WAR SP on par with AJ.